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PREVIEW: Welcome to Fight Night

An array of characters from Theatre Coup d’Etat’s Fight Night performance series. Photos by Craig James Hostetler.

If you saw a poster that said “Celebrity Deathmatch meets Highlander” and promised characters from Miley Cyrus to Darth Vader fighting it out with words, axes, knives, bricks, bats, hand-to-hand, and rubber chickens, you’d probably have a lot of questions. To start with: yes, it is a thing, and it happens in the Twin Cities about twice a year. It’s coming to the Phoenix Theater in Minneapolis tomorrow night at 10:30 PM, and is a choreographed performance theatre beatdown from the aptly named Theatre Coup d’Etat. 

Unlike Fight Club, there’s no rule that you can’t talk about Fight Night. To answer more of your questions, the Arts Reader‘s Basil Considine spoke with Theatre Coup d’Etat’s artistic director James Napoleon Stone about the origins of Fight Night and its holiday bedazzlement.

How long has Theatre Coup d’Etat been presenting Fight Night?

This will be Coup d’Etat’s sixth Fight Night in three years.

Who are the fight directors for the themed Fight Night: Decked Halls show?

Each fight is a collaborative effort, but the fight directors are myself and Mason Tyre.

A promotional image from a past edition of Fight Night. Photo by Craig James Hostetler.

How did Fight Night begin? How/where/when was it originally conceived?

Fight Night began as a brainchild to help start a monthly fundraiser for the company. We wanted to take something that we were good at, that was low-impact on time and resources, and try to make something entertaining out of it. Thus, Fight Night was born: simple, single-elimination bouts with a “champion” crowned at the end, with audience games in-between that range from fighting with pool noodles to charades.

Audience members are divided into Red Team and Blue Team, and get assigned a fighter to cheer for each round – and opposing team members to jeer at. It’s booze and brawling, the makings for a great weekend out.

Tinkerbell prepares to do battle in a previous edition of Fight Night. Photo by Craig James Hostetler.

All our previous shows have been at Bryant-Lake Bowl, where our first show originally had scenes from Shakespeare with the text supporting each fight (Hamlet/Laertes, Mercutio/Tybalt). Afterwards, we realized that no one really cared about the text – they wanted action. So we augmented and began throwing characters together that we thought would be more fun, like Lara Croft, Darth Vader, The Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Gandalf. These seemed to get a better audience response, and on Halloween of 2016 we did our first themed Fight Night with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the girl from The Ring, Frankenstein, and Hannibal Lecter. Themed nights sell better, and as such we have evolved and improved Fight Night as time goes on.

For this Fight Night, how did you divide the choreography between matches?

Each Fight Night choreography is a little different. Mostly, I have done them, but sometimes Adam Scarpello of Staged Steel works with us. This time, we have a new choreographer in Mason Tyer, who will also be fighting as Krampus. For Decked Halls, Mason choreographed one fight and I did the other two.

Do you use a particular combat style or martial art?

There isn’t one particular combat style to watch out for this time. In the past, we’ve had some fighters with different training that they bring in and utilize, and different weapons, but for Decked Halls it’s a healthy dose of street fighting with some weaponized ballet (we do have the Sugar Plum Fairy feisty-fighting, after all).

Lara Croft prepares for a reckoning in a previous edition of Fight Night. A promotional image from a past edition of Fight Night. Photo by Craig James Hostetler.
Casey Jones from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles prepares to dish it out in a past edition of Fight Night. Photo by Craig James Hostetler.


Bad Santa (John Zach) vs. Jack Skellington (Aaron Henry)

Sugar Plum Feisty (Käri Nielsen) vs. Krampus (Mason Tyer)

Round 1 Winner vs. Round 2 winner

Theatre d’Etat’s production of Fight Night: Decked Halls Edition plays for one night only on Friday, December 21, 2018 at 10:30 pm in the Phoenix Theater in Minneapolis, MN.

Basil Considine